top of page

Piper first to build Marion County silo

George W. Piper advertised his dairy business, then located on West Ely road, in the 1885 Hannibal City Directory. Accessed via the Hannibal Free Public Library’s web site.


George W. Piper, (1846-1912) a forward-thinking and industrious man, was the first among Marion County’s dairymen to build a silo to protect his stored grain.

Piper’s ingenuity was the subject of a story told by I.F. Gillmor, farm adviser for Marion County, for a December 1915 edition of the Hannibal Courier-Post.

“The first silo was built in 1903 by G.W. Piper, who was, at that time, operating a dairy. The best kind of limestone was at hand so his choice of materials was quickly made,” Gillmor said.

“(Piper’s) farm was built at the foot a bluff and the stone used in the foundation of the silo was quarried almost on the spot. Gus Cordell was contractor for the project, which was originally started in 1901. 

“The first year the silo was built to a height of 25 feet, at which point the masons refused to work longer, declaring they were afraid to build any higher.”

Piper filled the silo with grain, and used the grain to feed his cows the following winter.

“Mr. Piper was so well pleased with results that he planned on increasing the capacity by building higher. This was necessary also, for he had increased his herd until he had over one hundred head of cattle on hand. Ten feet were added that year, making the completed silo thirty-five feet high and eighteen feet in diameter. The wall was twenty inches thick, cemented on the inside and it is as firm and smooth as it ever was.”

In September 1904, Piper told the Courier-Post that he had put up 200 tons of green food for his cattle in the big silo, and as soon as it settled, he planned to add more.

Early years

G.W. Piper came to Hannibal circa 1870, bringing with him, from New Hampshire, his wife, Martha Jane Nesbit Piper (1849-1933), and their two young sons, James Samuel Piper (1867-1956) and Henry Irving Piper (1869-1953.) They were also joined by Martha’s mother, Mary Nesbit, born in 1818 in Ireland.

The family first settled on Hannibal’s west end, on Owens Avenue, and in February 1877, his sons attended Hannibal’s Western School (now known as Eugene Field).

The family next moved to the south side of Bowling Avenue, where he established a dairy farm.

By the  mid 1880s, he had moved his family and Hereford cattle to West Ely Road, a quarter of a mile west of the city limits.

During the late 1880s, he and his sons established a dairy farm on the south side of James Road, near St. Mary’s Avenue.

Minnow bridge

Since mankind first settled along the hills and valleys that represent Hannibal, Minnow Creek has meandered, draining the farmland and woodlands northwest of town, along a path of valleys leading toward the point that the often-small creek converges with Bear Creek, and ultimately, the Mississippi River.

Periodically, Minnow Creek transforms from a trickle into a roar, and the runoff emerges as a wall of debris-filled water, twisting and turning while gaining propulsion. It leaves, in its wake: damaged bridges, erosion and water-soaked dwellings.

George W. Piper’s dairy farm, fronting James Road about half way between St. Mary’s Avenue and west to what is now U.S. 61, was on the western bank of the creek, which, until 1904, crossed the aforementioned James Road unencumbered.

It was good news, indeed, when the Marion County court announced in May 1903, its plans to construct a much-needed bridge on James Road, across the creek.

On March 9, 1904, the Hannibal Courier-Post published the announcement that G.W. Piper was opening a stone quarry on his property. A week later, it was revealed that Piper would be supplying the stone for the bridge foundation. On June 4, 1904, the Courier-Post reported that the approaches for the new bridge were washed away by flood waters from that unpredictable creek. “The creek was very high and as the earth was new the water carried it away readily.”

The contract for an iron bridge to cross the creek was awarded to The Garrett Bridge and Iron company, of St. Louis. They also installed bridges across the Fabius on the Palmyra and LaGrange Road, and another across South River on the Hannibal and Palmyra Road. The contract bid for the three bridges was $3,042.

The Pipers

George W. Piper, born in the state of Maine in 1846, was married to Martha Jane Nesbit, (born 1849 in Manchester, N.H.) on May 12, 1866. They relocated to Hannibal, Mo., circa 1870.

Two sons, James Samuel and Henry Irving Piper, were born in New Hampshire. A third son, George H. Piper, was born in Mason Township, Marion County Missouri, in 1872. A daughter, Mabel P. Piper, was born in 1875.

(George H. Piper died in 1886, and records show he is buried at Riverside Cemetery in Hannibal.)

The dairy business

Operating a dairy and delivery business during the early years of the 20th century wasn’t for the faint of heart, according to the following news items culled from the Hannibal Courier-Post and Ralls County Record, via

Aug. 17, 1902

“Milk wagon accident

“While James Piper (George W. Piper’s 35-year old son) was out delivering milk yesterday morning on Chestnut street, one of his horses got its foot across the tongue of the wagon, breaking the tongue.”

Aug. 17, 1902

“Arch Hanson, who is employed at G.W. Piper’s milk dairy, met with a very serious accident between 12 and 1 o’clock yesterday morning. Mr. Hanson had gone to the barn to prepare for milking the cows, and in pushing some hay through a hole in the hay loft, he slipped and fell to the floor below, striking on his shoulders and breaking his collar bone. Dr. Richard Schmidt (office and home at 1203 Broadway) was called and reduced the fracture. It will be about six weeks before he will be able  to resume work.”

April 10, 1905

“A horse dropped dead

"This morning as G.W. Piper, the well known milkman, was driving into the city, one of the horses of his team dropped dead. The animal was in apparent good health, and the loss to Mr. Piper is severe at this time of a scarcity of good horses.”

March 18, 1910

Ralls County Record

“Cows being inspected

“An expert from the office of the State Veterinarian at Columbia, visited Hannibal several days ago and inspected several herds of cows for tuberculosis. In the E.T. Cameron herd of 54 cows, 2 were condemned. Of the G.W. Piper herd of 44 cows, 20 were condemned and 11 put on the suspected list. Several other herds, among them Judge Pine’s 25 head, were inspected and found all right. Piper and Cameron will get pay from the state for their cows at not over $25 per cow. Palmyra Herald.”

And ultimately, George W. Piper himself was severely injured in a delivery mishap, on Oct. 3, 1911. Piper, who was about 65 at the time, was driving his horse-drawn milk wagon, carrying milk cans, in the vicinity of Ninth Street where it intersects with Broadway. Located nearby was John Condon’s lumber yard and William Kansteiner’s  hardware store.

A street car hit the wagon, smashing it to bits, the impact throwing Mr. Piper to the ground. His injuries consisted of a scalp wound, a sprained ankle and a crushed finger, which had to be amputated.

Dr. Edward H. Bounds, 37, whose office was at 524 Broadway, arrived at the scene, and transported the patient to Levering Hospital.

The Courier-Post reported on Oct. 3, 1911: “It is supposed that Mr. Piper, whose hearing is considerably affected, had started to cross the track, not noticing the approaching car. The horse which was attached to the wagon, was cut but not seriously hurt. The contents of the wagon, mostly milk cans, were scattered over the street and milk ran down the gutters.”

A year later, on Nov. 25, 1912, G.W. Piper died at his home. The Courier-Post referred to the milk wagon accident. “Since then he has been in very poor health and his death was not unexpected.”

He was 66.

Survivors include his wife, his daughter, Mabel Piper Graves, and his sons, James Samuel Piper (1867-1956) and Henry Irving Piper (1869-1953.)

Note: I.F. Gillmor, in the Aug. 8, 1915 edition of the Hannibal Courier-Post, made note that “It was use dup until five or six years ago when the barn on the place burned and dairying was discontinued on the farm due to the fact that the city was building out around the place. The silo is in fine condition today and could be used if necessary as the inside coating of cement is still on and does not show any signs of cracking. Aside from the weather of the lime mortar it shows no sign of weakening and should stand for many years to come providing it is not torn down to make room for some building.”

On December 31, 1878, George W. Piper advertised himself as The West End Dairyman. At the time, his dairy was located on the south side of Bowling Avenue. this advertisement was published in the Hannibal Daily Courier, accessed via

G.W. Piper announced in the May 1, 1896 edition of the Hannibal Courier-Post that he was lowering the price of milk, and planning to expand his delivery route. Accessed via

In 1909, G.W. Piper advertised his business as Union Dairy in the Hannibal city directory. Accessed via the Hannibal Free Public Library’s web site.

Mary Lou Montgomery retired as editor of the Hannibal (Mo.) Courier-Post in 2014. She researches and writes narrative-style stories about the people who served as building blocks for this region’s foundation. Books available on by this author include but are not limited to: "The Notorious Madam Shaw," "Pioneers in Medicine from Northeast Missouri," "The Historic Murphy House, Hannibal, Mo., Circa 1870,” “Hannibal’s ‘West End,’ and the newest book, “Oakwood: West of Hannibal.” Montgomery can be reached at Her collective works can be found at


 Recent Posts 
bottom of page